Every year during the month of November I am reminded of how little my life reflects my gratitude for the life I live. I am reminded of this because 9 out of 10 Al-Anon meetings I attend are on the subject of gratitude. It’s a weekly, hour-long reminder that I have much to be grateful for, yet am often too consumed by life to see it.
I used to get upset about attending meeting after meeting on the same topic. Seriously, can’t you people think of anything else to talk about during November?
It upset me because it forced me to look at all the people, places, and things I had in my life to be grateful for. Things I ignored, discounted, or looked past everyday, because life is hard. I wasn’t grateful for the hard and I most certainly wasn’t grateful for the people who were making it hard.
But, always amidst the hour-long reminder came a glimmer of thanksgiving; a way to practice gratefulness even on days when it looked as if there was little to be grateful for.
It was in program that I learned the importance of listening and the beauty of the ABCs. Listening allowed me to hear the people, places, and things other people were grateful for in their lives and gave me the opportunity to see where I may have similar people, places, and things in mine. The ABCs gave me a concrete way to list out things I was grateful for on any given day-especially on the days where gratitude was nowhere on my radar. A simple list starting with the letter A, then, B, C, and so on. Some days my lists were as simple as:
- C- coffee
I filled pages with what looked like a grocery list-little everyday things that I was glad to have. Through that practice of seeing everyday objects as things to be grateful for I was able to start looking at bigger things and turn my heart of darkness into a heart that let in some light.
Several years ago I took the Facebook Gratitude Challenge-the one where on each day of November you write something you are grateful for and post it on your page. I did this not for the public, but for me, another way to for me to have concrete evidence that I have many things in my life (at least 30 every year, anyway!) for which to give thanks. I am so glad I did- this year, though I have not done a challenge I have been rereading all the things I was grateful for 4, 5, and 6 years ago. My Facebook, “On this day” tab has been a daily reminder that during some of the loneliest years of my life I was able to find something to be grateful for-everyday. Many of the things I’m rereading, are similar from year to year, and though I haven’t written any down this year many of the things from the past are still present in my life today. Daily I am struck by just how many of my gratitude posts carry the same theme-people in my life that love me. I just had to put it on paper to see it.
This Thanksgiving season, I am encouraged that a spirit of thanksgiving is more present in my life and is being cultivated in the lives of my family. My boys have been challenged by their group leaders to keep a 7 day gratitude journal-a journal that not only logs the good things but keeps a record of the things that didn’t go so well. In their journals they are able to flip the switch from something that looked as if was going to be worst to something good.
My youngest wrote in his book the very first day:
- I am UPSET because: it was my brother’s birthday.
- I can be GRATEFUL because: I went to his party.
Flip the switch. Say it aloud. Write it down. Cultivate the attitude of gratitude this season and watch the light come in.